Brother XR9550 Review
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|Pros||Easy to use, notably good zigzag stitching, free-foot sewing option||Good sewing performance, easy to use, high value||Excellent lighting, clear and easy stitch selection, very easy buttonhole set-up||Excellent straight stitching on cotton jersey, very easy to get stitches set up||Bobbin quality and winding, simple, great at scallop stitches across multiple fabric types|
|Cons||Buttonholes on light to medium fabrics aren't ideal, subpar bobbin winding||A bit harder to set up||Trouble with the bottom of zippers, basic side-mounted manual thread cutter||Lacks a needle up/down button, no presser foot lock, trouble with bottom strap of average zipper||Not computerized, trouble with our 8-layer denim test|
|Bottom Line||A great machine that leaves something to be desired in creating buttonholes on lighter fabrics but overall provides excellent features for the price||A great machine for the price and a good bet for both beginning and seasoned users||Good for those starting out, but advanced users will get better performance out of other machines||Great machine for a beginning sewer, but lacking a few helpful computerized features||A solid, non-computerized model that leaves more to be desired with buttonholes and lighting|
|Rating Categories||Brother XR9550||Singer 7258 Stylist||Brother CS6000i||Brother CS5055||Brother GX37|
|Ease of use (35%)|
|Specs||Brother XR9550||Singer 7258 Stylist||Brother CS6000i||Brother CS5055||Brother GX37|
|# of Built-in Stitches||165||100||60||60||37|
|# of Buttonhole Styles||8||6||7||7||1|
|Measured Weight||12. 1 Ibs||14.6 lbs||9.4 lbs||10.8 lbs||12.5 lbs|
|Maximum Sewing Speed (stitches per minute)||850||750||850||750||850|
|Buttonhole Sewing (number of steps)||1-Step||1-Step||1-Step||1-Step||1-Step|
|Maximum Stitch Width||7mm||6mm||7mm||7mm||7mm|
|Maximum Stitch Length||5mm||4.8mm||5mm||5mm||5mm|
|Automatic Bobbin Winder?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Brother XR9550 is a quality product at an excellent price point. With 165 different stitch styles, a 1-step buttonhole process, and a free arm that enables sewing around sleeves or other smaller areas, the XR9550 is a terrific sewing machine for beginners or veterans alike. We like the light weight (10.7 pounds) and the hard cover/carrier, which really protects the sewing machine against accidents. But that's not all that impressed our testers. This model's best descriptive word is e-a-s-y. Its setup, stitch selection, buttonholes, and zippers were all straightforward.
Let's face it; you buy a sewing machine because you want to sew something. It may be putting on patches or creating heirloom quilts, but whatever you sew, you want a dependable, easy-to-use sewing machine. We put the Brother XR9550 through a number of sewing tests using six different stitches on six different fabrics. We sewed on chiffon, denim, and most fabric in between, using those six different stitches. Then we moved on to buttonholes and zippers, the bane of many a home sewer. But the XR9550 kept pace with whatever we threw at it. This metric is worth 45% of our overall scoring, so you know how important it is to us.
We use the basic straight stitch first in our tests because it is an excellent way to determine how the stitches and tension look out of the gate. We set the machines at a 2-2.5 stitch length and then sewed on different fabrics, looking for tension and evenness. Basting on the XR9550 was a breeze. On each of the fabrics, the stitches were evenly spaced, and the tension was terrific, with very little bunching, even on chiffon.
Then we got to the zigzag stitch, which is used more than you may think. You can't do a buttonhole without a zigzag stitch, nor can you patch effectively, and if you like to use decorative stitches, you'll use zigzag a lot. So we really looked at each machine in this metric and were very pleased with the overall outcome of this testing for the XR9550. The bottom tension was a little tight on some fabrics, but since that is something you can adjust to your liking, this doesn't concern us very much.
Ease of Use
If a sewing machine is not easy to set up and use, it will only sit in a closet, gathering dust. Since you're not reading about sewing machines to have one be an expensive dust collector, we weight this metric a full 35% of the final score for each machine. What defines this metric? Well, if you can't figure out how to thread the machine, wind the bobbin, select a stitch, or you can't see what you're sewing, then the sewing machine you are using is not one that's easy to use. So in this metric, we looked at all of those things and more.
Let's start with the basics — winding the bobbin and threading the machine. The Brother XR9550 had the easiest stitch setup of all the machines we tested. But winding the bobbin, though easy, didn't have quite as stellar a finished result as we would have hoped — the thread on the bobbin wound unevenly with a crooked, wobbly fill. Still, that's not a dealbreaker, considering how easy the rest of the sewing machine is to use.
Other metrics we looked at in this section scored far higher than bobbin-winding. The XR9550 has an LCD operation panel that clearly shows what stitch, length, and width are selected. On top of that, there's a huge list of available stitches printed right on the front of the machine. Find the stitch you want, select it on the screen with the +/- buttons, and off you go — the machine automatically sets the appropriate stitch length and width, but you can manually adjust the settings as well. The lighting on the XR9550 has a cool cast and is positioned to the left of where the needle comes down, making the right side of your fabric slightly less bright. But it is clearly lit where the needle goes into the fabric, so this didn't cause us any issues. Overall, this is one of the easiest machines to use in our lineup.
How many of us know someone who will go to great lengths to avoid sewing buttonholes? Maybe you are one of those people yourself. Our testers divided this metric into two sections: setup/execution and quality of the buttonhole. We'll begin with the ease of setup. You select your stitch, put on the buttonhole presser foot, move the buttonhole lever down, line up and sew. The bar tack ends up just below your line, which is fine since usually the line made is where you want your actual hole to start. Easy-peasy. And once the buttonhole is finished, the sewing machine stops. No more sewing down your fabric for those that aren't watching closely.
Secondly, we looked at the quality of the buttonholes, and it is here that the Brother XR9550 fell down on the job a bit. The zigzag stitching was inconsistent, with a little bunching of the bottom tension on our cotton muslin swatch. Buttonholes on silk were another story, though. The tension became much tighter with the stitching closer at the top and slightly farther apart at the bottom. This happened on the largest buttonhole setting on silk fabric. The XR9550 did just fine with smaller buttons on silk, which is what you'd probably use for that fabric anyway.
Should You Buy the Brother XR9550?
Our veteran sewers — having used many good and bad sewing machines over the years — answer with a resounding yes. This sewing machine has some not-so-perfect points, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. Remember that we used all the factory-suggested settings for our tests, and you may decide to use different settings depending on what you are sewing. Overall, this is a great sewing machine at a very reasonable price and is one that almost any sewer would be happy to own.
What Other Sewing Machines Should You Consider?
Maybe a sewing machine like this is not exactly what you want or need. Some people would rather have a machine with more stitches, especially decorative stitches — if so, check out the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist. Or, maybe you'd like something heavy-duty that can sew through a lot of denim or even sew sails. If that's the case, check out the Juki HZL-F300. Happy sewing!
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